‘Startling and confusing’ proclaimed Science magazine. ‘Reckless and foolish’ said US vaccine scientist Peter Hotez. ‘Dangerously rushed’ said the journal Nature. Western scientists are in denial. The first vaccine against the disease which has dominated all our lives for the last few months – Covid-19 – has been unveiled, not by a western nation, but by Russia.
President Putin announced the registration of the vaccine, named ‘Sputnik V’, on Tuesday, and said that his own daughter had already tried the vaccine on herself, and found it to be safe and effective. Russia plans to begin rolling out the immunisation programme over the next coming weeks, offering it in the first place to medics on the front lines of the coronavirus epidemic, on a voluntary basis.
The vaccine underwent clinical trials in June and July, and is based on an existing formula on which many other contemporary vaccines have been produced. The Russian health ministry has said that experience of other similar vaccines has shown that they can provide immunity for up to two years. The head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Kirill Dmitryev, has said that Russia has already received requests from 20 different countries from Latin American, the Middle East and Asia, for one billion doses of the vaccine.
For many this is obviously a ground-breaking and positive moment in what has been a dark period in our lives. It is a light at the end of the tunnel. And yet, we are living in a time in which almost everything is politicised, including the race to discover a coronavirus vaccine. We already heard earlier this year allegations from the UK that Russia was attempting to ‘steal’ information about its vaccine programme, and yet no evidence was ever produced to support the claims. It could only be expected that in this competition to create the first vaccine, that any achievement by Russia in this regard would be rejected outright.
Even without having any of the data regarding the Russian vaccine to hand, experts such as Trump’s chief advisor on coronavirus and Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Antonio Fauci, have dismissed it.
“I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective,” he said,